Amit Sarwal and Reema Sarwal (ed.). Creative Nation: Australian Cinema and Cultural Studies Reader. New Delhi: SSS, 2009, xlix + 600 pp. Hardback. ISBN: 9788190228206.
This collection of essay on Australian Studies is the second one of its kind edited by Amit Sarwal and Reema Sarwal, a dynamic couple of India-based scholars who has become instrumental in promoting Australian culture on their home continent. If Fact & Fiction: Readings in Australian Fiction (2008) was altogether an infelicitous experience, Creative Nation: Australian Cinema and Cultural Studies Reader shows how the Sarwals have improved their editing skills and the quality of their publications.
The Editors claim that this new project “is an effort on [their] part to compile the first Reader in this field for a non-Australian scholarship with a view towards adding onto critical works produced from India on Australian texts (going beyond conference proceedings on literature and social sciences), and to further nurture an exchange of ideas in the fields of Cinema and Cultural Studies.” (xiii) It is a fair attempt, which indeed testifies to “the vast potential of this rich minefield for study and research.” (xiii)
The delightful foreword by John Ramsland – a high-profile scholar specialized in Australian national and local history, now moving into the field of cinema studies – demonstrates that “Australian cinema has come a long way since its beginnings” (xxv) by running the gamut of 20th and 21st century Australian movies.
The rich volume is divided into two sections, Cinema Studies (pp.1-277) and Cultural Studies (pp.281-515), followed by a 51-page bibliography, a 20-page filmography and a 3-page musicography, plus notes on contributors.
The first section deals with critical perspectives, cinema genesis, genre theory, contemporary works, theoretical frameworks, covering feature films, short films, documentaries and low-budget digital cinema. The subject matter of these articles is eclectic, ranging from specific historical aspects like the Anzac Legend and identity issues like masculinity or Aboriginality, to postcolonial concepts like hybridity.
The second section provides a useful history of Cultural Studies and explores new directions before segueing into a few sample articles and popular culture. Chris Healy argues that “At the most general level [he sees] cultural studies research in Australia as having been chiefly concerned with public cultures, with that shifting terrain of the exercise of power, in both a productive and constraining sense, through various forms of media and popular culture, in the practices of everyday life and through the governmental regulation of conduct.” (311)
Katherine Bode builds up on gender theory to explore White Australian masculinity, Baden Offord has recourse to queer theory to make his case while Robert Dixon covers photographic culture. But this is not it. There is heaps more to read as many issues are canvassed in the pages of this fat volume, which successfully gives a panoramic view of Australian studies moving into the 21st century.